Waiting for Ivan's second flight.

Not knowing quite how to start presenting this batch of photos, I'm going to post the first page of Ivan's logbook.  I said in the last post that I wouldn't be photocopying it, so I've set up an Excel spreadsheet to display it.  I'll maintain them as individual xls files, and perhaps post the whole lot of them when I've finished.  Any way, here's the first page...

There are a few fun things that I got out of this first page.  Why, if you can climb to 3000', would you be afraid of a bridge?  The OX was a stronger engine than earlier F-boats with at about 70 hp, and yet there were quite a few entries that stated they couldn't get over the bridge.  The photos I've seen from that area do not show any monumental bridges.  The entire area was built around the availability of the railroad line that lead to the island, but photos of that bridge show it to be quite short. Notice that they eventually give up, and move the whole operation north of the stinking bridge.  Perhaps the bridge interfered with taking off.  Also, I noticed that they started out in West Palm Beach, and wind up in Palm Beach, so they started on the mainland, and wound up on the island.

This probably had something to do with the bridge, and was a peculiarity of the F-boat.  In calm water, the F-boat didn't like to "get off" as Ivan put it.  It was actually better to have a mild chop in the water, which helped in getting the hull "unstuck" from the water.  My guess is that the prevailing wind produced less chop on the leeward side of  lake Worth. In drawings I've seen of the F-boat, I didn't see the extended hull that we'll see in these photos, so I wonder if they needed a bit more hull area to help out on takeoffs.  Perhaps their little OX motor was a bit saggy.  It seems that no two of these planes were alike, so that may just typical of some planes and not others.

The newspaper clippings, which are accompanied by quite a few photos, surround an incident in which Eden and his mother ran into some engine trouble and had to land.  The plane was damaged and had to be disassembled for transport and repair.  This may have happened very soon after Ivan's first flight, since you'll notice a break between the first flight and the second flight of about two and a half weeks.

Eden used this event pretty masterfully, in my opinion.  He successfully showed that the airplane was safe, even in the event of engine trouble.  Another little note in the papers a few days later indicate that Eden found that the "gas pump failed temporarily".  I wonder if this is the same pump that Ivan referred to when he claimed they needed to "pump air".  In some drawings and photos, I've seen a cylindrical fuel tank above and left of the engine, but I can't make one out in any of my photos, so far. It appears that there is a fuel line running from behind the engine, but I'm not sure about that, either.  Perhaps some F-boat historian will fill us in before long.

Some photos of the event...

The next photos will feature more of Ivan, another student, F. C. G. Eden, and some interesting photos of early Palm Beach, Florida!  In the meantime, check out this interesting article on early Palm Beach aviation.



First Flight, January 1916

If you’re just joining us, we’ve recently finished up the auto racing career of my grandfather, Ivan. There are twenty posts primarily covering the 1913 - 1915 Indy 500 race photos in his collection of scrapbooks, with a few dozen photos and newspaper articles detailing some of his own career in racing.

Now, we’re transitioning into his flying career. I’ve been away from posting for a little while, and I’ve been looking for a document that my grandfather wrote around 1960, but have been unsuccessful in locating it. Ralph Cooper had a portion of the letter on a page for Ivan at his Early Birds website, but it’s a blank page there, now. I’ve tried to contact Ralph via a couple of emails, to no avail. I’m bummed, because the text mentioned how he transitioned from racing to flying, as I recall it, and it would be an excellent transition for this post. I’ll post what family folklore has been, and continue looking for this letter.

My sisters and I recall the story about Ivan’s father telling him that racing at Indianapolis was too risky, and that was Ivan’s goal with his racing career. At first, I was dubious after his early lack-luster performances at Fonda, in 1914. Maybe you’ve heard the saying “the older I get, the faster I was”? Now, after his reading about his 1915 season, I think this could have been true. If that letter turns up, it may answer the question.

In any event, Ivan was awarded $400 to go take flying lessons. This part sticks pretty clearly in my mind, and the fact that his father put up the money for it. This first newspaper article states that he travelled on the steam ship Apache. A little bit of internet searching found an article advertising the seven day voyage from New York to Jacksonville, Florida, for $43.30.

 A train probably ran the rest of the way, and his journals mention many, many train trips around the country. The last paragraph concludes with a mention of his military involvement as “musician of company H”. Ivan, in letters home from France describe the bugler as “the music”, and he used to play for us whenever we stumbled on his old bugle in the toy closet. Imagine the sound of a seventy-three-year-old man trying to play the bugle, and a small boy wondering if it was really true after hearing it.

I don’t usually include all the newspaper articles Ivan pasted in his scrapbooks, since there’s so much overlap in them, but this one adds some fascinating, and incredible news. Notice in the headline below, the words, “at Rate of Dollar a Minute.” Adjusting for 2010 dollars, that’s the equivalent of nearly $1200 per hour. My friend Simeon is a CFII, and his estimate for my area in Oregon is about $165 per hour. That covers the instruction and the plane, wet (including the fuel). If it took you the full forty hours of instruction to get a private pilot's certificate today, that would average to about $6500. That $400 in 1916 would translate to about $8,000 in 2010. Still a bit pricey, and we’ll learn soon how many hours of instruction Ivan received before obtaining a certificate.

His first logbook entry is on January 18, 1916. The heading across these pages reads “Palm Beach, Florida. - City Park, West Palm Beach, Florida. Under “Type of Machine”, he has written  “Curtiss Flying Boat”. Under “No. of Machine” it reads (this text takes up 2/3 of the page spanning the rows) “ Curtiss F. Boat formerly owned by David McCollough. Curtiss Control”. At the bottom it reads “OX motor & one O motor built into an OX.” I’ll have a great picture showing the Curtiss controls and a description in an upcoming post. He lists “20 minutes” and “1” under “Duration of Flight” and “Landings”. In the column “Height” he has written “neglected to keep record of altitude” over the first dozen or so flights. It’s interesting that Eden let him fly on quite a few trips without giving formal lessons. I’ll put all of these logbook entries in a table so that all the entries are shown. I will probably include a few scans of the logbook as well, but I don’t want to handle them too much, as they’re stitched together.

I’ll touch on what little I could find about Frederick C. G. Eden. His middle initials made me chuckle, as it may some of the pilots or aviation types following this. C.G. is pilot shorthand for Center of Gravity which is a pretty critical point for aircraft weight and balance, but Fred’s middle initials actually stood for Colvin George. He apparently was the 6th Baron Auckland which he succeeded to in 1917, and you’ll see mention of his mother, Lady Auckland in photos and newspaper stories coming up. He gained the rank of Flying Officer in the RAF volunteer reserve, and held the office of Assistant to the Air Attaché to Paris in 1940, according to one genealogy. He was killed in a German air raid on London in 1941 at the age of 46.

Here's a photo of Mr. Eden, a bit later in life I found online at http://www.npgprints.com while researching.

Many more Curtiss Flying Boat photos as well as Eden, another student, and places and people around Palm Beach, Florida in the next post.



1915: Ivan Cleans Up

Well, this is it: the last racing-themed post of Ivan's illustrious career behind the wheel... of a car, that is.  Some of the airplanes had steering wheels too, so I thought I'd be clear about that.  These newspaper articles make me happy, too.  When I started posting about Ivan's racing career, he was placing pretty consistently in third, and sometimes second.  Whenever he could tear a wheel off another car, he'd place first.  But, now he's really, truly winning, and in some cases he's winning pretty substantially.  Some of the references in the clips mention him lapping his opponents! 

This next clip contains a paragraph at the end that I really found funny.  You can almost hear the disgust exhibited by the author of the article.  Somebody beat this guy Wheaton, will ya?!  As with most of these articles, I've omitted the motorcycle races.

Here's another photo of the car we saw in the last post, and again, the team is all about the sponsor.  Havoline is a familiar name even today, and it was interesting to learn through a quick Wikipedia check, that this brand is traced back to the mid 1900s.  The Indian Refining Company purchased the Havemeyer Oil company in 1915, and was later purchased by the Texas Oil Company (better known as Texaco) in 1931.  The brand survived under Texaco until 2001 when Texaco merged with Chevron, which still uses the brand today on motor oils, other lubricants and antifreeze.

Somewhere in the post on death and destruction, I had researched the accident involving a Vite which crashed at the state fair.  From that research, I found a photo of a Vite car, which I can no longer seem to find.  The radiator looked very similar to the crash photo, and those both look very much like this car's radiator.  Until I get some more information to confirm or deny this, I'm going to guess that this is the Vite that he did so well in.  Notice the Chalmers logos in the garage doors.

I found one snippet regarding Mr. Gotier (no, Google, I did not mean Goiter) in the book American machinist, vol. 55, 1921.  "Frederick A. Gotier, formerly with the Buick and Cole organizations, has been selected to represent the New Bradford Motor corporation, distributor of Studebaker cars in Albany, N.Y."  I found nothing more about the race, or Mr. Gotier.

This is the most glowing praise of Ivan's racing career I've read to date. 

And here is the last newspaper clipping I have in the collection regarding Ivan's racing career.  I thought that there was much more, but the articles turned out to be mostly regarding his decision to learn flying.  The article covers the same race as above, but the last paragraph gives more coverage to the match race between Ivan and Mr. Gotier.  I'm going to do more searching of the local newspapers to see if I can find any more information about this race.  It's too much build up not to know what the outcome was.

So, we're essentially done with Ivan's auto racing.  He took one of his cars with him on his flying adventures, so we'll see that in later posts.  I have mixed emotions, actually.  I had slogged through some of the racing section, anxious to get on to the flying portion.  However, now that I've seen how big racing was to Ivan during these two years, I wish I had more articles to look through.  I have to say, it's very satisfying to know that he reached a zenith in his racing endeavors.

Next up will be articles and photos of Ivan's first flight, and his instruction begins in Palm Beach, Florida, with a gentleman named "The Honorable Frederick C. G. Eden". 



1915: Ivan starts winning!

Above is the first photo following the 1915 Indy 500, in what I'm going to call scrapbook #2.  This scrapbook mostly contains Ivan's early flying photographs.  I used the photo above in my introductory post since it's such a great picture of Ivan, and you immediately associate the goggles with racing.  Is this the Vite car that was featured in the handbill of the match race with Gotier which I placed with the last post?  I'm making this assumption based on the photos in this post, and on the newspaper articles.  If someone has some information about the car, please post it in the comments.  Better photos of it are coming, however.

The newspaper article starting this section has a pretty encouraging headline... Ivan won the fifteen mile race, and came a very close (11 seconds) second place in the ten mile race due to a blown tire.  Apparently he made pretty good time to have caught back up within 11 seconds after a tire change.  Keep this in mind for later...

We're racing at Berkshire Park in Gloversville at this event, which is about 10 or so miles north of Fonda, as the crow flies.  From the maps of the area, it looks like all of Ivan's racing career took place within about twenty miles of his home in Amsterdam, New York.

The first photo and this next photo appear one above the other, with the newspaper article to the left of them. I get the feeling that this photo is for the sponsors, somehow.  I love the guy with his hat off.  Is he proposing, or something?

The next old photo is pretty pretty fun.  I believe this is Ivan in the second car, but I've never seen a car like this one in the albums.  It does have a number on it, and he sports a 7 in the photo above as well, but I don't think this is the same car.  He has bounced around from Chalmers, to Hudson, to Vite, and raced in a Stearns once; so who knows what circumstances led to him being in this car?

Here's another photo just prior to the start of this race, and I have to say that I don't know what race this is from. It's clear from an article in my next post that Ivan raced all summer, but there are only a few articles about the races in the scrapbooks.  It's pretty cool news, too.  This disproves my belief that he was self-absorbed and saved everything ever published about himself in the papers, though.

Now, the first race in this article stated that Ivan had regained a bit of distance after his blown tire.  This second article (actually third, I didn't post the second one since it's the same news from another paper)  gives a bit of a hint of the interplay between Ivan and Mr. Jones after the ten-mile race. There obviously was an argument that led to this wager.  The article details a match race (a one on one race) between Wheaton and Jones.  I like to put myself at the scene and try and fill in details based on facts that I've read, and human nature.  I imagine that Ivan got in Jones' face after the race and told him that he would have won that race if he had one more lap to go, or something like... "If I hadn't blown that tire, you'd have lost".  Jones then puts down the wager that we read in this article...  The headline seems a bit slanted to me, don't you think?  Why isn't Jones' name in the headline?

Unfortunately there's nothing to indicate whether the race took place, or if it did, what the outcome was.  I've been curious for a while about these races after reading that so and so didn't finish "in the money".  It would be very interesting to know what the purse was for these races.

Next up: more 1915 racing!  BUT!!  Stay tuned if you're looking for the aviation stories.  They're right around the corner.



Odds and Ends...

I promised some interesting photos, so I'll just dive right into it.  Here is a really white car.  I mean, look at it! The thing has an aura around it!  As I was scanning this, it occurred to me that there was paint on the chain.  Then I noticed paint on the tires.  They painted almost everything on this car white.  This photo appears directly after the race at Fonda from the last post.  I hope they waited until the paint was dry before changing into their best clothes!

Next in the album is a series of photos of accidents.  This first one is followed by a telegram asking if they should try and save the tires.  Guess it was a total loss.  I was hesitant to examine this photo too closely while scanning it.  Yikes.

The radiator is embossed FEDERAL, on this bus.  Notice the windshield.  Safety glass was available for these cars, as I've mentioned on my Facebook page, but didn't get widely introduced by auto manufacturers until after WWI.  Safety glass was first used on gas masks around 1914.  I'm astonished that the side windows in the second photo are all intact. That's a stiff car!

The next photograph isn't such a disturbing image, but the story is.  Unless there was another accident of this magnitude in 1914, this is actually a photo from the Syracuse fair in 1911.  Lee Oldfield's car blew a tire near the end of this race while he was gaining on Ralph DePalma, and his car careened through the fence.  The crowds were packed around the raceway, shoulder to shoulder it sounds like.  Oldfield was thrown clear of the car, but the car itself plowed through the crowd actually killing six instantly, and three or more later, according to this New York Times article.  Oldfield was reportedly driving a Knox racer, and a brief search seems to corroborate this reference judging by the radiator.  I found another interesting reference on David Greenlees' excellent site in reference to Mr. Oldfield.  Notice the curvature of the frame rails.  That was some impact.  That's Ivan on the left, with his foot up on the car.  He was 17 at the time this photograph was taken, 100 years ago.

Without pausing for breath after that horrible scene, the photos cover another accident of a much greater magnitude, but I did not search for any references to match this train wreck.  Don't worry, we get a brief break from the mayhem soon.

This one seems out of place, but it's arranged carefully in the middle of the train wreck photos.  I'm assuming that folks from town got news of the accident and came with whatever they had to help the passengers back to town.  Or, to gawk.

A couple of photos of the engine.  I found the little boy standing in the right foreground of this photo really curious.  Look at the whole train as a set of perspective lines, and notice how the whole thing opens up to the little boy.  It almost makes the whole photo into a portrait of him.  Incidentally, Ivan is standing behind the little boy.  That pose with his hands on his hips is fairly distinguishable.  I remember it pretty clearly from my childhood.  It will be interesting to see if there are other photos of him in this pose.

There are a dozen of these photos more or less, and they all show pretty much the same thing, except with blurry people scurrying around.  No need to use up your bandwidth on those.

Here's a wonderful pose of a Packard truck and work crew to chill the mood a bit.  Perhaps someone could fill us in on the details of these great cars?

Well, I was wrong.  There is a racing related clipping here at the very end of the scrapbook.  It looks like Ivan cut this up and re-pasted it into the scrapbook.  One of the articles previously mentioned that Gotier was a professional driver, and would race in a Stutz, but I wasn't able to find any sources to provide for him.

And last but certainly not least, we have another truck accident to finish up the end of our first full scrapbook.  Some of the Indy races were taken from other books in the collection, but this is the first one that we have truly exhausted.  This will be all for a few days while I catch up with school.

By the way, I believe that fourth gentleman from the right is Ivan in the last photograph.  Notice his shirt collar is sticking straight out.  Also, the little boy at the rear of the truck is giving us all a smart little salute.  Kids these days.



Fourth race, back at Fonda

I'm trying something new with this post.  I've begun placing the collection on Smugmug.com and I'll be linking the photos from there.  I think you'll see a pretty vast improvement in image quality.  Let me know what you think, please.  The newspaper clippings are fairly low resolution images so they will still be housed on Picasa/Blogger.

I chose Smugmug since a prominent photographer (Trey Ratcliff) whose work I enjoy has said great things about the company.  He also mentioned how secure his photos were there, and I've been thinking that it would be a horrible loss if anything happened to the collection.  With the photos on Smugmug, my family will have a digital repository of the collection and I won't have to worry about maintaining it.  It actually makes it possible for you to print some of the photos if you'd like a copy for your own collection, but I'll address that later.

So, this newspaper article concludes the first scrapbook which contained mostly auto racing, auto makers, some circus photos that didn't pass the interest test, and a smattering of family members that also didn't pass.  There are two or three pages after the photos for this post in the scrapbook.  Some interesting automobile photos and some disaster photos, which are very interesting.

This article goes into a little pre-race near-catastrophe.  One of the drivers apparently mistook a signal and went plowing through the pack, thinking the race had started.  That must have been quite a sight.  As with the last couple of posts, I'll skip the motorcycle races.

Ivan put this clip of the race results on the next page, too.  The news behind the news, right?  The article didn't include the times of the other finishers other than first, and Ivan has written them in.  I think this is significant.

Here's a little story relating to Ivan's propensity to write stuff down.  I had been going through the collection around eight years ago, and I found some letters relating to a project that he and a well-known aviation restoration guy had collaborated on.  I called the museum which they donated these items to, and was connected to the curator!  I described the project and he told me about how (I'll save the details til later, sorry) it all worked out.  He wondered how I knew about it, and I told him about Ivan.  "You're Ivan P. Wheaton's grandson?" he said.  "Your grandfather's flight suit, goggles, gloves, boots, and helmet were on prominent display here until just last month!"  He went on to tell me that many books on early Marine Corps aviation benefited from Ivan's input.  Ivan apparently loved writing all this stuff down, and he really loved keeping it.  I still have a couple of books to which he contributed.  For some reason, he was obsessed with keeping a record of his life.  (by the way, I used to play aviator in that suit when I was about 12, when he was out of town)

Anyway, no actual photos of this race, but I do have a few really wonderful pictures of the Hudson he was driving. We saw a photo of the Hudson factory a few posts back, which makes me wonder how his sales of Chalmers, and perhaps his sales of Hudson tie into his racing career.

There is also this portrait of Ivan at the age of what must be 20 or 21.  Also, if you examine the first of the photos above, you'll see that Ivan used photos of this Hudson, but the license plate reads "NY 1915".  The race was held on Oct 14, 1914 (there's another article substantially the same as the one I posted, but with a date).  I'll stay true to my goal not to rearrange the photos due to the actual dates.  I figured I'd mention it so you knew I was paying attention.

The next little batch of photos are a bit curious.  They are not racing related, but are transportation related, and... interesting.



Filling in - Race three

Ballston Spa, New York is the site of Ivan's next race, in which it appears he was not actually scheduled to race.  Ballston Spa today appears to be a very small village, situated twenty miles east and a little north of where Ivan grew up in Amsterdam, New York.  I found the following information interesting:
The community was named in honor of one of its earliest settlers, Reverend Eliphalet Ball. Ballston Spa was officially incorporated as a village in 1807. This area was once famous for its mineral water spring, which was believed to have healing powers. Ballston Spa was also known as the site of the Souci Hotel, which was one of the largest hotels in the world in the 1800s. This village was also the birthplace of the supposed creator of baseball, Abner Doubleday.
I've only included the text that pertains to Ivan's event from the newspaper clipping, this time.  The papers seemed mostly interested in the motorcycle races at Ballston Spa, and gave it a good three quarters of the article.  It seems that Ivan wasn't driving his Chalmers at this race in October of 1914, and we'll understand why, soon.  Ivan did not participate in the ten mile race, so I also passed over that event.

This photo is the best of the bunch for the racing at Ballston Spa, but it's difficult to tell which race this is.  Race one lists seven starters, and I count eight cars here.  Race two lists ten starters, but it's possible that some cars didn't race.  Like the last post, who knows, and who cares?  It's just fun that there are photos of the event at all.  It doesn't appear that the race was very well attended, though.  I see a lot of empty seats in the grandstands.

So, Ivan is racing a "Stearns car owned in Saratoga" according to the article, and he finishes a familiar third out of perhaps ten starters.  I'm making the assumption that this is his third race, since he was pretty avid about posting these clips and photos of his racing.  It is possible that he has raced more, and we just don't have record of it.  He's not doing badly if this is the extent of his experience, since there are considerably more cars which are starting these races.  Seems like Jones and Stewart have local racing pretty securely tied up with their Fords.

This handbill from the race is tucked in between the pages of the scrapbook with the press clippings.  This provides the answer to why Ivan wasn't racing his Chalmers; he wasn't even there to race!  He came to serve as "Assistant Starter".

And the back of the handbill shows that Ivan raced in the place of a Mr. Hamm, for reasons that are not known.  Did Ivan charm his way into a driving spot at the last moment?  Maybe this was a customer of Wheaton Automobile Company, or perhaps a family friend.

I'll finish up this post with a photo of one of the motorcycle racers, just since it's such a fun photograph.  Next up will be another race at Fonda.

(If you're enjoying these posts, please "Like" or "+1" with the links below.  Thanks!)